Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has urged Kenyans to be peaceful and respect the rule of law ahead of the historic 2013 general elections.
Addressing the National Conference on Peaceful Elections in Nairobi, President Kibaki emphasized that a peaceful and just election and smooth transition will send out a clear message that Kenya is the democratic and economic beacon of the region.
The peace conference brought together Kenyans from all corners and sectors of the country to deliberate on how to ensure that Kenya remains peaceful before, during and after the forthcoming elections.
President Kibaki called on political leaders and their supporters to play a leading role in facilitating the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.
He encouraged them to preach peace and to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes unity in the country.
President Kibaki said it was disheartening that in the last few weeks several Kenyans have lost their lives in inter-communal skirmishes.
He stressed that while the government does its part in the maintenance law and order, leaders must speak to people at the grassroots on the need for peaceful co-existence.
Those who incite communities to fight their neighbours must have no place in the modern Kenya, he said.
President Kibaki advised all Kenyans to guard against reckless utterances and actions that could compromise the keeping of the peace in the country.
At the same time, President Kibaki appealed to the media to be responsible and impartial in their reporting, saying that the country is looking up to them for information on important national issues regarding the election.
He called for accurate, objective and balanced reporting by media houses before, during and after the general elections.
President Kibaki disclosed that the government will use the education sector as an important avenue for the promotion of a culture of peace among Kenyans.
He underscored that schools, colleges and universities are suitable forums where personal and national identities, values, ideas and ideologies are formed.
President Kibaki pointed out that through the Ministry of Education, the government initiated the Peace Education Programme which strives to enable people to take personal responsibility for promoting peace by adopting non-violent means for resolving conflicts.
He said that the peace campaign will use a Peace Torch to symbolize unity of all Kenyans, adding that through a relay from one county to the other, the Peace Torch will spread the message of peace, respect, friendship and unity.
President Kibaki launched the Peace Torch as an expression of the country’s desire to bequeath the present generation and generations to come, a legacy of peace and prosperity.
He said that the government has facilitated the establishment of institutions and created other mechanisms for promoting democracy in the country and creating avenues for economic prosperity and social cohesion.
President Kibaki cited the creation of several specialized commissions including the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Commission on Administrative Justice as some of the measures the government has taken.
In addition, President Kibaki said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (I.E.B.C.) which is now fully operational, holds an important place in the electoral process as it is the body that will plan and manage the forthcoming elections.
He said the government fully supports the work of the I.E.B.C. and will ensure that it has the necessary resources to conduct a free and fair election.
President Kibaki expressed satisfaction that the judiciary has begun putting in place mechanisms to deal with electoral offences and disputes.
He observed that an impartial, fair and efficient judiciary is a key component for peace and stability in any country.
President Kibaki also disclosed that police reforms are underway and the government is in the process of recruiting additional police officers to maintain law and order.
He however, emphasized the need for Kenyans to realize that while the police have the responsibility of ensuring security during the electioneering period, all citizens have the primary responsibility of maintaining peace.